| Caroline Ware
When you suffer from sickle cell trait or disease, your quality of life is threatened. A normal life may seem impossible. However, you can overcome the pain and crises of sickle cell. Beating sickle cell is about improving your lifestyle. Changes don’t need to be difficult to make.
Here are three simple things you can do right now to reduce the frequency of crises and improve your quality of life.
- Proper stretching promotes good blood flow and lowers your risk of pain and injury. Yoga is a great option that will focus your attention on breathing. This will vastly improve oxygen circulation and encourage healthy red blood cells. You can try these two easy yoga-inspired moves to stretch your muscles and improve circulation.
- Standing side stretch: Standing straight, inhale and lift your hands over your head. Clasp your right wrist with your left hand and side bend to the right. Exhale and pull deeper into the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds, focusing on breathing deeply. Repeat on the other side.
- Lower back stretch: Lay on your back with your legs straight. Bend your right leg across your body and towards your chest until you feel a stretch in your lower back. Hold your right knee with your left hand for support. Stretch your right arm to the side, away from you. Fix your gaze in the direction of your right arm. Hold for 30 seconds, breathing deeply. Repeat on the other side.
- Go for a brisk walk. Exercise is important for everyone, but if you have sickle cell disease you must listen to your body while exercising. If something hurts, take it easy to avoid a possible pain crisis afterwards. This might even mean ending a workout early. Opt for low-impact exercise like walking, Pilates, or even dancing. Find an exercise you enjoy, but avoid high-impact workouts like hiking, running and HIIT, which can easily lead to overexertion.
- Stay hydrated. Dehydration causes cells to sickle, so drink at least 8 glasses of water each day. Increase your fluid intake before, during and after exercise, whenever you have an infection, and on hot and humid days. Also, avoid caffeine – coffee, soda, and caffeinated teas dehydrate the body. In order to “catch up” you’ll need at least one additional cup of water for each cup of caffeinated beverage. Keep in mind any activity may cause fluid loss (even sweating) so you can compensate and avert a crisis.
Being mindful of these three activities will help you better manage pain levels and reduce crises. You can take back control and improve the quality of your life with a well-equipped arsenal. By incorporating these practices and maintaining a proper diet for those with sickle cell, you can end the pain and start getting the most out of your life.